Selina Robinson, B.C. minister of municipal affairs and housing, admires the new mezuzah on her office door, while Rabbi Yechiel Baitelman looks on. (photo from Chabad Richmond)
Born and raised in Montreal before moving to British Columbia, Selina Robinson first lived in Richmond, then relocated to Coquitlam. She was elected as the member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia for Coquitlam-Maillardville in 2013 and again in 2017. Robinson is a member of the B.C. NDP.
When I learned that Rabbi Yechiel Baitelman of Chabad Richmond recently helped Robinson affix a mezuzah to her office door at the legislature, I was surprised. I called to ask her how she came to invite Baitelman to help her. “I didn’t,” she replied. “He just showed up with it!”
As it happens, Baitelman was in Victoria to fix a Torah scroll. While there, he reached out to Robinson, a longtime family friend, to see if they could meet briefly. She invited him to her office, where they talked about her portfolio and how they could work together to improve housing in Richmond. Never one to miss an opportunity, Baitelman asked Robinson whether she would like to put up a mezuzah. She loved the idea, but told the rabbi she didn’t have a hammer. Without skipping a beat, he said, “That’s OK, you don’t need one. This mezuzah has adhesive on the back.”
I guess that falls into the category of “I just happen to have a mezuzah on me.” I mean, don’t all rabbis carry them around?
Robinson has known the Baitelman family for decades, through her mother’s work at Chabad Lubavitch in Vancouver years ago. She told me that the Baitelman kids used to call her mother “Bubbe Rhoda.”
While she was a university student in the 1980s, Robinson helped run Camp Gan Israel of British Columbia day camp for two years. Later on, when she was living in Coquitlam, she helped build the Burquest Jewish Community Association. She also used to work at Jewish Family Services.
Robinson’s commitment to the ideals of Jewish life and culture is resolute, and she proudly refers to herself as a “Habonimer.” Yet, her affinity for Chabad is strong, especially their dedication to helping Jews at all levels of observance.
Robinson regularly shows her new mezuzah to colleagues, and takes the time to explain what it means.
Shelley Civkin is a happily retired librarian and communications officer. For 17 years, she wrote a weekly book review column for the Richmond Review, and currently writes a bi-weekly column about retirement for the Richmond News.